Christmas is nearly upon us and I’d like to take this opportunity to wish Gazette readers a happy and safe festive season.
I’d also ask that you continue to look out for each other’s safety too.
Traditionally there is a spike in certain types of crime at this time of year – drink driving and domestic-related abuse are examples that come to mind.
Despite it being 50 years since the first drink drive road safety advert, sadly every December police still arrest motorists who’ve had at least one too many and then try to drive.
My advice is don’t risk it – the cost of a taxi fare is never worth losing your licence for, nor going to prison for killing someone in a serious accident.
Just as concerning to me is the rise in the number domestic abuse-related reports at Christmas.
There are many reasons for this increase: again alcohol, increased financial pressures and more time spent in each other’s company as well as the stress of the Christmas season.
This time last year I wrote in the pages of the Gazette that, if there was one type of crime that I would really like to make a difference on in 2014, it was domestic abuse.
So I am particularly pleased to be able to report back to you now the progress we have made in this area.
We now have four more domestic abuse advisors (IDVAs) working in Hertfordshire, including one based at Watford General Hospital – one of the main to serve this area.
IDVAs are independent of police and social services and offer support and advice to victims of abuse within the home. The funding for these new IDVAs came from my office.
I have also paid for a £50,000 review this year of services for the victims of domestic abuse in Hertfordshire by the national charity Co-ordinated Action Against Domestic Abuse. I look forward to their final report back in January.
This report is the first of its kind in Hertfordshire and is an extensive assessment of both the need and current provision for supporting victims across all public services.
I believe this is the first step in reshaping those provisions so that we can best protect and best support victims in the future.
In November, Hertfordshire Constabulary also launched a domestic abuse campaign spreading the word about how to recognise it and how to report it – a campaign which I wholeheartedly endorsed.
And most recently, I have awarded £3,000 to The Open Toy Box scheme to pay for play therapy for children and young people in Dacorum and St Albans who have suffered from or witnessed domestic abuse.
Domestic abuse is particularly pernicious as it is something that can affect families and partners from all backgrounds and from all positions in society, regardless of income, age or gender.
Victims suffer behind closed doors and are often scared and unwilling to proceed with criminal prosecutions.
In the long term I hope we can change attitudes towards domestic abuse so that victims can recognise abusive behaviour and are confident in coming forward and reporting it to the authorities.